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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is warning that it is being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and that it will soon exhaust its funding and might be unable to meet its payroll without significant help from Congress — as the number of applications from immigrants dries up.
“Given the unprecedented nature of the global pandemic, there is no historical data that can be used to project the scope and duration of COVID-19’s impact on USCIS’ revenue,” said the email to staff by Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News.
“USCIS will exhaust its funding this summer, and without congressional intervention, we risk not being able to make payroll and will have to take drastic actions to keep the agency afloat,” he said.
USCIS offices closed in March as part of the effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, suspending in-person services at field offices and asylum offices. President Trump has also placed significant restrictions on green cards for those already in the country — which are usually handled by USCIS.
Unlike other government agencies, USCIS is a fee-based agency, meaning it is primarily funded by the money coming from fees that immigrants pay to have their applications processed. But Edlow said that since the declaration of a national emergency, application and petition receipts “dropped to half their previous levels and with them, agency revenue that keeps our doors open.”
Edlow said that, even with an already-planned hike in fees coming soon, USCIS is seeking $1.2 billion from Congress to address budget shortfalls for both fiscal year (FY) 2020 and the start of 2021. He said that such an ask would not add to the deficit, as it would add a 10 percent surcharge to application fees.
“We will be working closely with Congress and urging them to take swift action so USCIS can continue to administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguard the homeland, and protect the American people,” he wrote.
When asked for comment by Fox News, a USCIS spokesperson said: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue and is seeking a one-time emergency request for funding to ensure we can carry out our mission of administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity, and protecting the American people. Importantly, this funding proposal protects American taxpayers by not adding to the deficit and requiring USCIS to pay the money back to the U.S. Treasury.”
However, it is not clear if there is much appetite from Congress to provide such aid. A $3 trillion stimulus package passed by House Democrats on Friday — but which appears doomed in the Senate — does not include any relief for USCIS.
A House Democratic aide said Congress is reviewing the USCIS bailout request.
“The Administration has brought this request to Congress, and we are currently seeking more information about their proposal,” the aide told Fox News.